Summer Undergraduate Research Mentored Experience

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Dr. Wen-Yee Lee

Department of Chemistry

Development of a novel non-invasive diagnostic method for early detection of cancers

Preferred major field of study or minimum required skills

  • Quantitative Analytical Chemistry - calibration, basic statistics
  • Computer Skills - Words, Excel

Scholarly significance/intellectual merit

Since President Richard Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, the US spends billions of dollars to develop better drugs and chemotherapies that might kill cancer cells, but it has yielded insufficient results: the overall cancer mortality rate in the US has fallen by a scant 8 percent since 1975 as heart disease deaths have dropped by nearly 60 percent in that period, by comparison. While the cure-driven approach has dominated the cancer research, a largely under-examined approach, finding and treating cancers early, present a great research opportunity for the science community. A long quest has been undertaken in searching for tumor markers for early diagnosis of cancer to increase the curative success rate of this disease. Unfortunately these attempts have limited specificity for the early detection of cancer. To search for other biomarker, research has shown promising evidences using specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as an invaluable screening method for early detection of cancer. Further research is needed to identify cancer specific VOCs for cancer diagnostics.

Research question(s)

  • Are VOCs in urine specific to cancer stages?
  • Are VOCs in urine specific to cancer types?

Methods/techniques/instruments to be learned/utilized

Quantitative and qualitative analytical techniques will be used to conduct the study. Thus, summer undergraduate students will learn about sampling, sample preparation using Stir Bar Sorptive Extraction, chemical analysis using Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry, and data analysis including internal standard quantitative technique.